What are floaters?

Floaters are tiny clumps of gel that form in the clear, jelly-like substance inside the eyeball known as the vitreous humour. They appear in your field of vision as tiny specks or clouds moving. The floaters move across your field of vision as your eye moves and if you try to look directly at them the floaters may seem to disappear. Floaters are particularly visible when looking at a light-coloured area, such as a blue sky. These images are actually inside your eye even though they appear to look like they are at the front of your eye. Floaters do not have a defined shape and may appear as small dots, circles, clouds, cobwebs or lines across the vision.

What causes floaters?
The most common cause of floaters is shrinking of the vitreous jelly at the back of the eye due to ageing. This may pull away from the back of your eye causing clumps or strands.

Can anything be done for floaters?
Some floaters will fade over time and others will remain in your vision. You may find it helpful to look around to try to move the floater out of the way. Most people find it most irritating when trying to read.

Flashing lights

Sometimes, floaters can be associated with what appears to be flashing lights which look like flickering fluorescent lights. If the vitreous is pulling on the retina it will stimulate the nerve cells, causing flashing lights. Flashing lights can be a symptom of Retinal Detachment.
Flashing lights can also be caused by:

  • Vitreous humor pulling at the retina, when moving or turning your eye quickly
  • Migraine, either with or without associated headaches
  • Postural hypotension - getting up quickly from a kneeling, sitting or lying position resulting in dizziness and vision disturbance
  • High blood pressure

Are flashes and floaters serious?
As the vitreous gel shrinks, the retina can tear and this is serious condition. A tear in the retina can appear as a new floater. Retinal tears can also lead to retinal detachment.

What do I do if I have floaters or flashes?
Call for an appointment with your ophthalmologist. When you come for your appointment, please arrange alternate transport as your eyes will be dilated allowing the ophthalmologist to check your retina for any damage